Keeping your teeth strong and healthy is an important part of living a whole life. However, this is only part of the process. In addition to your teeth, it is important to pay attention to your mouth. It is not only cavities and gum disease that we should be worried about, in other words, but also things like oral cancer. To help accomplish the goal of keeping your mouth healthy and recognizing the disease as quickly as possible, there are a few things that you should do. At The Center for Implant and General Dentistry, we offer oral cancer screenings to our patients, for example, to help them stay on top of their oral health and eradicate any problems as quickly as possible.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer out there, and it can affect the tongue, throat, lip, and mouth. It is more dangerous than brain, cervical, skin, and ovarian cancer. You might be wondering why that is, right? One of the problems with oral cancer is its lack of symptoms. You won’t show any at first, in other words, which means that the earliest stages of the disease can fly right by without you noticing a thing that is off about your oral health. Because of this, oral cancer is mostly not discovered until it has become a more severe problem and is already in advanced stages. That makes it one of the deadliest kinds of cancer.
When should I have a cancer screening?
One of the most effective ways to detect oral cancer before it becomes too advanced to fight is by regularly coming in to see us for a cleaning and examination. We will look for signs of oral cancer and other oral disorders at every exam. This helps to detect any potential signs of the disease in its earliest stages and is particularly important because when it is discovered early, the survivability rate for oral cancer is around 90%. It is treatable, in other words, unless it is not found until it is far advanced. It would help if you considered visiting us twice a year for a full tissue screening for oral cancer.
Are there any symptoms?
As stated above, oral cancer is usually asymptomatic throughout its first few stages. However, there are a few things that you can keep in mind and keep an eye out for just in case. If you develop a sore in your mouth, especially one that doesn’t heal and that bleeds easily, you should come to see us. The same is true if the color of your gums or other tissue changes, if your teeth seem to be fitting together oddly, if you experience tenderness, numbness, or pain in the lips or mouth, or if you have trouble swallowing moving your tongue or jaw, or chewing. See us immediately if you have any of the above symptoms.
Benefits of screenings
The following are some of the benefits that you can experience by getting regular screenings for oral cancer:
The ability to detect the disease early:
As stated above, the most crucial benefit. Oral cancer is deadly but highly curable when caught in its earliest stages. When it is not, however, the survival rate plummets.
A decrease in your risk:
The earlier you catch oral cancer, the lower your risk of developing the disease again. We will be able to treat the disease quickly and effectively, in other words, and help you avoid any long-term problems.
Improved treatment options:
The earlier we catch oral cancer, the more treatment options available to you. For example, when it is caught early, surgery might be an option. However, if it is missed until it is far advanced, surgery might not be possible, and you will have to face other, more difficult treatment options.
Improved quality of life
If we catch oral cancer early, we can avoid the problematic side effects of the disease and the treatments used to fight it. This includes things like eating and speaking difficulties, as well as pain.
Catching other problems:
When you come in for a cancer screening, we will also be able to see any other oral health problems that you might be facing. This can help you avoid more serious issues down the road.
What to expect during a screening
You don't require any special preparation for an oral cancer screening. The process is quick and easy and involves a visual and physical examination of your mouth.
We will take a close look at your mouth, tongue, lips, gums, and throat during a cancer screening.
We will feel for any lumps or other abnormalities. We might also use a special light to look for abnormal tissue growth.
If we find anything that looks like it could be cancerous, we will biopsy the tissue and send it off to a lab to be analyzed.
There are two specialized types of oral cancer screenings that we might use, depending on your individual needs.
Oral cancer screening dye: This is a quick and easy way to look for abnormal growth in the mouth. We will swab your cheeks, gums, and tongue with a blue dye. If there are any abnormal tissue growths, they will absorb the dye and turn blue.
Oral cancer screening light: By shining light into your mouth, we can look for any abnormal tissue growths. This is a quick and painless process that can be done in just a few minutes.
It would help if you went for an oral cancer screening at least once a year. However, if you have any risk factors for the disease, we might recommend that you come in more often.
Risk factors for oral cancer include:
Tobacco use is the most significant risk factor for developing oral cancer. If you use tobacco products, you should often come in for screenings.
Alcohol abuse: Alcohol abuse increases your risk of developing oral cancer. If you drink alcohol, it is important to drink in moderation and come in for regular screenings.
Exposure to the sun: People who spend a lot of time in the sun are at an increased risk of developing oral cancer. This is especially true if you don't wear sunscreen or protective clothing when in the sun.
A history of cancer: If you have had cancer in the past, you are at an increased risk of developing oral cancer. This is why it is essential to come in for regular screenings.
Oral health problems: If you have gum disease or other oral health problems, you are more likely to develop oral cancer. This is why it is essential to see a dentist regularly and come in for regular screenings.
Screenings are quick, easy, and painless. They could save your life.
To learn more about oral cancer and schedule an oral cancer screening, give us a call today at (903) 231-6605!
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